The Snowman

The Snowman

:"This article is about the 1982 film. For other uses, see Snowman (disambiguation)".

name = The Snowman

director = Dianne Jackson
producer = John Coates
writer = Raymond Briggs (book)
music = Howard Blake (composer)
Peter Auty (treble)
Sinfonia of London
distributor = Channel 4 , Universal Pictures
released = December 24, 1982
runtime = 26 min.
language = English

"The Snowman" is a children's book by English author Raymond Briggs, published in 1978. In 1982, this book was turned into a 26-minute animated movie by Dianne Jackson for the fledgling Channel 4. It was first shown on Channel 4 late on Christmas Eve 1982 and was an immediate success. The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Short in 1983. It has been shown every year since and has become a part of British and international Christmas popular culture.

The book and film have no words, instead telling the story through picture, action and music. The cartoon version was scored by Howard Blake who wrote both music and lyrics of the song "Walking in the Air" and also composed and conducted the complete orchestral score for the film with his own orchestra, the Sinfonia of London. The film's one song, "Walking in the Air," was written specially for it and performed by a St Paul's Cathedral choirboy, Peter Auty.

In a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000, voted for by industry professionals, the film was placed 71st. It was voted 4th in UKTV Gold's "Greatest TV Christmas Moments".


"The Snowman" is the tale of a boy who builds a snowman one winter's day. (The day appears to be either Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve, but this is not explicitly stated.) That night, at the stroke of twelve, the snowman comes to life. The first part of the story deals with the snowman's attempts to understand the appliances, toys and other bric-a-brac in the boy's house, all while keeping quiet enough not to wake the boy's parents. The two then venture back outside and go for a ride on a motorcycle, disturbing many animals: pheasants, rabbits, a barn owl, a fox and a brown horse.

In the second part of the story, the boy and the snowman take flight — the song "Walking in the Air" appears at this point. They fly over the boy's town, over houses and large public buildings before flying past a pier and out into the ocean. They continue north past many sights and animals. Flying into the aurora borealis they reach their destination.

The two wander hand-in-hand into a snow-covered forest and attend a snowmen's party, at which the boy is the only human. They meet Father Christmas and his reindeer, and the boy is given a scarf with a snowman pattern.

The story ends after the return journey. However, the sun has come out the next morning and the boy wakes up to find the snowman has melted. The viewer begins to wonder if the night's events were all a dream, but the boy discovers that he still has the scarf given to him by Father Christmas.

Alternate beginnings

After the initial showing on Channel 4, and in its initial showings on U.S. television, an alternative introduction was sometimes used. Instead of Raymond Briggs describing how much it had snowed the winter he made "The Snowman", while walking through the field that morphed into the animation of the same landscape, David Bowie was shown walking into a boy's room reciting the same speech while holding a scarf that resembles the one given to the boy towards the end of the film. The Universal DVD "The Snowman & Father Christmas" (902 030 - 11), released in the UK in 2000, uses the Bowie opening. (The Bowie intro is actually missing on some Sony DVDs, despite being featured on the packaging.)cite web|url=|title=Customer Discussions: Review Comment Thread|date=November 2006|||accessdate=2008-05-24]

To celebrate the film's 20th anniversary, Channel 4 used an alternate opening directed by Roger Mainwood, with Raymond Briggs' interpretation of Father Christmas recounting how he met the boy. Father Christmas is voiced by comedian Mel Smith. Channel 4 have used this opening since 2002. This version is also cropped to 16:9 widescreen.

Production notes

The song "Walking in the Air" was released years later as a single, reaching number 5 in the UK charts, sung by Welsh chorister Aled Jones. Jones is often wrongly assumed to have sung the song in the film ("e.g." in a BBC review),cite web|url=|title=The Snowman (1982)|last=Barclay|first=Ali|date=2000-12-04|work=BBC – Films|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2008-05-24] but in the film it is sung by Peter Auty. Auty had a credit added to the 20th anniversary version.

Though the boy in the book is unnamed, in the film we discover he is named "James." This is clear on the tag for the present he receives from Father Christmas, added by one of the animators who decided to use her own son's name.

In the film, the boy's home seems to be in the South Downs of England, near to Brighton; he and Snowman fly over what appears to be Brighton; the Royal Pavilion and Palace Pier are clearly depicted. Later in the film, the tag on his present confirms this.

tage version

"The Snowman" has also been made into a stage show. It was first produced by Birmingham Repertory Company in 1993, with music and lyrics by Howard Blake, scenario by Blake, with Bill Alexander and choreography by Robert North. Since 1997 Sadler's Wells has presented it every year as the Christmas Show at the Peacock Theatre. As in the book and the film, there are no words, apart from the lyrics of the song ‘Walking in the Air’. The story is told through images and movement. Special effects include the Snowman and boy flying high over the stage (with assistance of wires and harnesses) and ‘snow’ falling in part of the auditorium. The production has had several revisions – the most extensive happening in 2000, when major changes were made to the second act, introducing new characters: The Ice Princess and Jack Frost.

References in popular culture

"The Snowman" formed the basis for a commercial for the Christmas Irn-Bru advert in which the slightly edited song tells the story of a boy and a snowman flying though Edinburgh, over Loch Ness, and over Glasgow before The Snowman drops him into the snow near George Square due to the boy not giving the snowman a taste of the drink. Raymond Briggs was unhappy with this use of his character, later stating "It is galling to find that the innocent character one has created for young children is being used to promote junk food and drink, and also to decorate the packaging of lavatory paper." Referring to the similar use of Paddington Bear in a TV advertisement for Marmite, Briggs added "It seems grotesque that Michael Bond and I have no say in the matter. Furthermore, we are then blamed for the crass exploitation, of which we knew nothing."cite news|url=|title=Snowman 'exploited' by the ad men|date=2007-09-23|work=BBC News|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2008-05-24] The Snowman also features in another television advert in Ireland, for the national postal service An Post.

Viz magazine printed a parody of "The Snowman", featuring a snowman who was a surly, unshaven drunk who enjoyed horse racing and breaking into cars, accompanied by an eager young boy who he generally disliked.

See also

* "Granpa", Dianne Jackson's second animated film for Channel 4, with music by Howard Blake.
* "Father Christmas" – Briggs' earlier two works "Father Christmas" and "Father Christmas Goes on Vacation" were combined into a film which was released in 1991.
* Another Raymond Briggs book, "The Bear", was adapted into a film in 1999.


External links

* [ Official site]
*" [ The Snowman] " at BFI screenonline
* [ Recordings of The Snowman & Walking In The Air]
* Toonhound: [ Book (1978)] , [ Animated short (1982)]

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